Olympics in the English Classroom

Jordan Catapano
Jordan Catapano
18 Aug 16
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The first art humans ever created was sports art – those beautiful cave murals depicting hunters in the middle of the action. Today we still venerate our athletes, celebrating them through dozens of sports at the Olympics. And as teachers we have the perfect opportunity to help students create their own art and communication surrounding this magnificent event.

Did you know poetry was an Olympic event during the first half of the 20 th century? Ask students to capture in language the beauty of world-class athletic performance with some of these poetry prompts:
• What is beautiful moment or performance you witnessed?
• Write a narrative poem from the perspective of one of the athletes, retelling their events.
• Take our national anthem – or your favorite from a different country – and add your own original verse.
• The Greeks used to write odes to honor the victors of events. Write an ODE poem to a winner you want to celebrate.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words
Photographers are capturing stunning photographs of Olympic athletes. Spend time looking at the amazing pictures of athletic performance and celebration together in class. Then have students select one they like and try to describe every detail they see in it with elaborate, detailed language.

For a creative writing challenge, give students a photo and ask them to write a story about what they imagine happened two minutes before the photo, during the photo, and two minutes immediately after.

Turn your students into journalists for a day by asking them to report a recent Olympic event they saw. Bring in samples from you local paper and teach students about headlines, leads, angles, descriptions, backstories, and other journalistic elements. You can even get started by watching an event together and writing about it as a whole class.

Ask students to include photos as well, and turn their articles into an Olympic newspaper or eBook.

Research and Present
Groom speaking skills and learn about the Olympics by asking students to research a unique aspect of the games. Consider some of the following for topics:
• Summarize an individual’s or team’s course through the Olympics
• Explore Rio de Janeiro and Brazil
• Look into the history of the Olympics
• Report on the themes, symbols, and traditions surrounding the Olympics
• Research a country and tell about its current and historic appearances at the games

Focus on students organizing their information and clearly sharing it with classmates. Have them include visuals for their presentation, and ask listeners to keep track of information they can use in other Olympic-related activities.

Olympian for a Day
Challenge your students to imagine themselves as an Olympic athlete the day of their big competition. Have them write a first-person narrative describing everything they would experience that day, from their activities and interactions to their thoughts and feelings.

Medals and Games
Create your own Olympic-style competitions. Review vocabulary with a relay race or play “Around the World.” Or consider having reading “teams” that share information they’ve read in a jigsaw-style discussion.

You can also give students examples of writing at different levels of quality and label them “Gold,” “Silver,” “Bronze,” and “Participant.” Improve your rubrics to reflect these levels of performance, and even give out your own version of medals as well!

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